“You did too much. You tried too hard. The only thing you didn’t do is walk away. So walk away. It’s going to hurt like hell, but do it anyway. Do it with grace. Do it with love. Do it knowing you did everything you could”. – b.breazeale
I have admittedly been avoiding this one, but it was inevitable, really. It’s pretty much why I’m here writing this, why I keep on writing this, why some of you have asked me to keep writing this.
Divorce. It’s apparently one of mid-life’s sidekicks. A lot of us are starting to wonder if these two now just go hand and hand. We see it happening all around us, yet it still feels like we are the only ones going through it.
I thought I would find it reassuring each time one of you confirmed that I’m not alone in all of this. It’s not reassuring. It’s heartbreaking. When I hear your stories, I just want to push fast forward so we can all arrive safely, unscathed, on the other side.
I think most of us have an idea why we are going through this at this point in our lives. There is growing evidence that our age bracket (40 and older) has the highest divorce rate. Clearly there are multiple factors, but most theories attribute this to the ‘empty nest’ phenomenon. I will try to tackle that one next week, at least my thoughts on it since my experience is only from what I have read, hearsay, and observation.
Regardless of age or the children factor, we all pretty much have different versions of the same story. We are the ones who cheated or the ones who were cheated on, the ones who are hated or the ones who hate, the ones who left or the ones who were left. Either end is excruciating and feels terrible.
For me, it was the months before- the unraveling of what I thought was my forever, when I knew I had to do it- that was by far the most painful part. The moment of truth, of trying to come to terms with the fact that I had to leave, of trying to find the courage to do it, of trying to prepare myself for the look on his face when I finally forced myself to do it- to turn my back on him, open the fucking door and close it behind me.
It is the hardest thing I have ever done.
I try to reconcile the guilt and regret with the fact that I truly did fight for us. And I know he did too. We all did. Not one of us wanted to give up on our person, on our relationship, on our lives as a couple or a family unit. We didn’t want to be the cause of pain for the person we still love. We didn’t want to be alone or bear the thought of them being alone. We didn’t want to hurt our kids and our families.
So we tried longer and harder than we should have, prolonging the inevitable, trying to forgive or waiting to be forgiven, trying to conjure up what had been missing- to fix it or force it or fake it. It seemed an infinitely better option than being the one responsible, or being the victim, or admitting to ourselves and the world that we had failed.
We all know the statistics: ‘Approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce’.
For most of us, the statistics were irrelevant. They certainly did not apply to me. I, unlike the other 50%, would beat the odds. I didn’t get married out of desperation or the desire to be the status quo. I wanted to be with the person who I had chosen to grow old with. I wanted to solidify our commitment to each other in front our closest friends and family. I wanted to build our own family and community. I wanted to have the happy, fulfilling, normal life that I assumed all of my friends had. The ‘other’ 50% were getting married for the ‘wrong’ reasons. But I wasn’t in that bracket. I was by no means going to be a statistic.
We were together for around 7 years before we got engaged. And yes, it became an issue. I began to question whether he was in it for the long-term or if there was something wrong with me or if there was some glaring reason why he didn’t want to get married that I wasn’t seeing. When we did get married, I distinctly remember wanting to tell everyone and probably made sure the ring on my left hand was noticed. “See, there is nothing wrong with me. I am lovable. Someone does want to be committed to me for life. You thought I wasn’t, but I am. I am normal”.
We did in the end become a statistic. But we were so much more. I don’t regret one second of our marriage (except for hurting him), nor spending over a decade of my life with him. I married him because he was everything I wanted and needed at that point in my life. I married him because I wanted to spend my life with him. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t.
I hate that I couldn’t save it, that we couldn’t save it. But I think we both know we would have been saving it for the wrong reasons. I didn’t leave because I didn’t love him. I left because I did love him and I knew I was no longer giving him the love he deserved. I also knew that I wasn’t getting what I needed anymore. That wasn’t his fault. He did every possible thing he could to give me what I needed and more. But what I needed, from life, from my partner, had changed. Staying wasn’t fair to either of us. We would have been living a lie.
Although divorce seems to becoming the norm, there is nothing about it that is normal. The unfolding, arrival, and aftermath is different for everyone. It is rarely mutual or fair, it never just ends, and it is always painful. Most days I know it was for the best. But there are still so many days I wish we were still together and just feel like I made a colossal mistake.
I think it just takes time and perspective to get to the place where we know that we made the right decision, that we didn’t fail, that sometimes failing is actually staying. But we are not there yet. We are in the thick of it and have little access to those on the other side- the ones who now can see that they did the best thing possible for everyone involved. This is why we are still fighting when we know it’s time to stop. This is why those of us who stopped are now riddled with guilt because we did.
But you can only fight for so long. And when you realize that you are the only one fighting with conviction, it is time to lay down your sword. It is time to fight for you, to have faith that time and perspective will reveal in the end that you did the best and most courageous thing you could have done. You walked away.
“One of the hardest parts of life is deciding whether to walk away or to try harder.”
Articles regarding divorce rate statistics: